on 10 February 2005
Having not read Sebastian Faulks' book, I cannot compare the film with it. It seems it must have been a rather long novel, with lots of characters in it, and plenty going on. It seems the film attempts to stay faithful to the book, and so the impression one gets is that the director tried to compress a complex and multi-layered story into a couple of hours.
The story is good but very predictable bordering sometimes on caricature. But nonetheless it is all very entertaining and the actors are good. It reminded of the older 1950's and 1960's war movies, very far removed from the new and very realistic wartime dramas ("Band of brothers,...).
Certainly worth watching.
on 5 March 2004
Although the film was rich in suspense, love, death and heroism in simple terms it told the story of the blossoming of the central character - from impetuous and unworldly to experienced and fully rounded.
Whilst the acting of Cate Blanchett was an undoubted highlight the film was a great ensemble piece too - Billy Crudup the American actor being a very credible "troubled" young Frenchman,Michael Gambon a solid patriach, Ron Cook a weasley British spy and the production team should be commended for creating such a believably rustic French WW2 atmosphere.
The DVD extras complimented the film well most especially the documentary about the real life British women spys active in France (SOE's)and the interview with Sebastian Faulks,who guardedly supported the production whilst insisting Blanchett played Charlotte.Though a little overegged, the featurettes/interviews with those directly involved in the making of the film were revealing: Billy Crudup is extremely choosy about his films,Cate Blanchett is a perfectionist (well there's a surprise!), Gillian Armstrong, who directs, is a really ballsy Aussie, Michael Gambon is something of a raconteur and Sebastian Faulks has a presence that would surely make him a fine actor too!
To all those who have read the book I suggest you follow Cate Blanchett's advice if you want to fully enjoy this DVD by treating the film as an entirely seperate entity.
on 4 September 2005
Looking at the higher proportion of reviews which pull this film to pieces in every aspect, I thought I would put a review through in the films defense.
I watched this film by accident, I can't remember how long ago, and loved it. I wasn't phased because they spoke english or any of the other criticisms levelled at this production, I loved it for what it was - a kind of, dare I say it, romanticised version of what actually happened to a lot of women who were dropped into France, and lost loved ones left right and centre. Packed with beautiful photography and contrasting disturbing images,
the most powerful part of the film being the portrayal of how the French betrayed their own country and colaberated with the Nazis - truly a stomach churning thought, plus Charlotte's realisation of "what have I gotten myself in to", panics and decides to leave - only to be stopped in her tracks at the railway station because the nazi troops all descended from the carriages - another powerful image.
The main story once Charlotte gets dropped into all the mistakes, the deceit and suspicion, is her determination to care for two little jewish boys, whose parents were taken away unbeknown to them, the heart breaking job she has to do of convincing the boys that there is nothing wrong, even down to their eventual capture by the nazis believing their parents were away "doing war work".
In all, I thought the film dealt with a lot of issues very well, and gave the viewer a sense of what these poor people had to go through, the tough decisions they were usually forced to make very quickly, and is summed up with a line from Peter; "War makes us into people we did not know we were".
on 23 January 2004
Having just finished reading the book, I found the film to be a very poor adaptation indeed. Granted, Cate Blanchett was good and believable in her role as Charlotte Gray, but why did the director decide to change the story so much? It was clear from the offset that the overwhelming love that Charlotte and Peter Gregory were meant to feel for each other was sadly lacking, and to me this wasn't a terribly good start.
If I hadn't read the book, I would have probably enjoyed it for the war time love story that it was. It certainly gave recognition to the very brave work done by many people during the war - some of which is often overlooked. However, I truly recommend that you read the book instead. There you will be enveloped in a wonderful love story, and gripped, and horrified at the events that took place in France during the second world war.
Also highly recommend Birdsong - another fantastic book. This one outlines the utterly harrowing events of world war one. Both these books will bring tears to your eyes. Lest we forget.
on 13 June 2015
I have no opinion on the adequacy of this movie relative to Sebastian Faulks's novel, which I haven't read -- but I'm sorry to say that the movie didn't work for me. The cast is fine, there are intense scenes, and the cinematography is often striking, but the emotional rhythm never built in a convincing way, at least for me, and there were holes in the plot that were distracting too. We're in the middle of World War 2, and Charlotte Gray (Cate Blanchett) is a Scottish nurse who happens to be fluent in French, and so when the man she loves, a bomber pilot, is shot down over France, she trains as an agent who will enter Vichy-controlled France to work with the Resistance there -- all the while hoping, of course, that while she is there, she can find out what happened to her airman. When she hits the ground in a small village in France, however, she finds that the collaborationist Vichy officials are proactively seeking out Jews to meet German quotas for the camps, and it isn't long before the Germans themselves sweep into town to make sure that things are done as they wish. Two Jewish children -- ones who happen to have seen Charlotte parachute in -- are placed in obvious danger, and with the help of a local Resistance leader (Billy Crudup) and his father (Michael Gambon), Charlotte tries to keep them out of harm's way. The Germans and the French collaborators are presented in broad stereotypes, and the anguish of Charlotte is communicated too often by close-ups of Cate Blanchett's face.
The actors are too experienced to be anything but adequate in their roles, but the movement of the action is too bitty, and the intensity doesn't build as it should. One feels too that children at risk is a rather too obvious card to play, at least as straight as it's played here, and that, along with the stereotyping of the bad guys, makes the movie seem more obviously exploitive of our feelings than the director (Gillian Armstrong) perhaps intended. As for the plot holes -- how exactly does Charlotte get back to England, given that the place is crawling with Germans? And what are we to make of her return to France? The movie has shown us no reason for her to -- spoiler coming up -- seem to prefer the Resistance fighter to her airman. It's true that both have suffered losses that amount to kinds of betrayals (for the best of motives, of course), and yet the weightiness of such facts doesn't seem to really be what's on their minds, or the movie's mind, at the close. Looking at the reviews, it seems that a lot of people liked the movie more than I did, but I can't get away from the feeling that my buttons are being rather too obviously pushed here.
on 30 January 2008
Basically anything that has Cate Blanchett,Michael Gambon and Anton Lesser in it will be a reasonable film to watch and the DVD cover gave the details which in this case were quite true with Charlotte leaving Scotland for London. She falls for an Air-force guy (Rupert Penry-Jones) who she fears has crashed in France then becomes a courier for the Free French Resistance having trained in London.Her hope?To find her lover.She takes part in a mission for the FFR then goes undercover as a maid in Gambons chateau,his Communist son (Billy Crudup) is head of the local resistance movement.Her life becomes interweaved between here and England throughout the film which has a series of betrayals in it.She learns a lot about people and herself.All in all a decent film.
on 5 July 2015
This film was based on the book of the same name which in turn was thought to be based on the exploits of one or more of the actual female SOE operatives during WW2. It received criticism by some for being slow, but surely the reality is that the resistance fighters spent much of their time watching, waiting, planning and generally keeping a low profile as much as being actively involved in espionage and other activities. I found it to be well paced with sufficient tension and excitement to make it entertaining. I haven’t read Sebastian Faulkes’ book but I have read other similar accounts of SOE operatives, both male and female and for me this film conveyed a sense of the pressure they worked under. There were one or two moments near the end of the film when I had difficulty distinguishing what was being said because the actors were speaking in such low tones, there were no subtitles, but by and large the sound quality was ok. All in all a generally entertaining film.
on 21 July 2011
If you read the book first, you'll be disappointed with the film. Based on the book it may, but only very loosely - very many significant differences, not least of which a different ending. Can't understand why it's called Charlotte Gray - if the scriptwriters didn't like Faulks story, why didn't they write a different one and call it something else - or is just a means to cash in on the good reputatio of the original.
on 30 May 2012
Charlotte Gray was a box-office disaster in the States, which damaged its reputation in the rest of the world. While it's not hard to see why American audiences didn't go for it, it's harder to understand the malice European critics greeted it with. It's a pretty good portrait of resistance infighting (the Communists are setup by the De Gaullists as liberation approaches), local collaboration (the schoolteacher gladly helps the Nazis root out Jewish families) and the nuts and bolts of resistance work. No great heroics or big setpieces, which is probably why it tanked: the big climax is more an emotional risk than the rescue audiences probably wanted. Performances are mostly good - Blanchett is much better than contemporary reviews would have you believe in particular. There are better films, but it's a good movie and for my money better than the alright Lucie Aubrac. I liked it enough to buy the DVD.
on 4 September 2014
A strangely compelling, if unealistic, tale. It's too bad that the young Jewish boys did not somehow miraculously escape from the Nazis. An infinitely preferable one to "Dominque" finding Julien again after the war. Much, much more interesting is the one hour documentary of the real "Charlotte Grays" that is included in the extras. Cate Blanchette is a very versatile actor and one again gave a polished performance. Definitely a film worth watching. Just be prepared to suspend belief on occasions.